From Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station
The vast majority of visitors to Amsterdam arrive at Schiphol Airport, which is located 15km (9 miles) southwest of the city.
From there, most people take the train into town. You board the train underneath Schiphol’s main hall.
The 15-minute ride to Amsterdam Central Station first takes you through several drab suburbs, showing none of the picturesque scenes promoted by the tourist office. If you’re into graffiti you’re in luck though, as the tracks are lined with some very creative examples of the art form.
The Sloterdijk station, about halfway into the ride, is noteworthy only because it serves an extensive business park neighborhood that wasn’t there when I grew up… The village of Sloterdijk — one church and a handful of small houses — is still there in the midst of all the award-winning high-rise architectural wonders.
The final leg of the short train ride offers brief glimpses of Amsterdam harbor, and your first look at gabled houses — former warehouses long ago renovated into expensive apartments.
Amsterdam Central Station
The magnificent Central Station [Google Map] is a work of art in and of itself. It was built in the 1880’s in the Neo-Renaissance style atop three artificial islands, and resting upon 8,687 wooden pilings rammed 30 meters into the sandy soil — a necessary building technique anywhere in Amsterdam.
Note that since it was built the entire station has subsided some 25 centimeters. The owner of the building, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Netherlands Railways) says that nowadays the station is stable. The construction work you see going on in and around the station is part of the controversial North-South metro line project.
Once you have visited the Rijksmuseum, which opened its doors in 1885, you’ll notice it greatly resembles the Station, which opened four years later. Architect Pierre J.H. Cuypers designed both buildings, aided — in the case of the Station — by A.L. Gendt, who also designed the Concertgebouw.
At the back of the station is the river IJ which separates downtown Amsterdam from North-Amsterdam. At the time the station was built, the IJ used to be Amsterdam’s connection to the open sea — the Zuiderzee, a saltwater inlet of the Northsea. The construction of a major dike, finished in 1933, turned the sea into a lake, the IJsselmeer. Building the station at this location — effectively cutting Amsterdam off from its own waterfront — was a controversial decision.
The front of the station, which nowadays serves more than 1500 trains a day, faces downtown — the center of Amsterdam. All of the city’s top attractions are within easy reach from Central Station, whether by foot or by public transport — bus, tram and metro.
Indeed, Amsterdam Central station is the hub of the city. Trains, trams, buses and subways — along with ferry boats, taxis, regional buses, water taxis and glass-topped tour boats — make this a hive of activity.
We’ve got more information about Amsterdam Central Station, such as where to change your money, where to find luggage storage lockers, how to report lost property, where the tourist office is, and what to watch out for.
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